Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore; U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Dominique A. Pineiro
Sen. Tom Cotton vs. chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, General Mark Milley.

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) last Thursday said he wanted a review of all general and flag officer promotions starting in 2007 to assess the nominees’ opinions on critical race theory.

Critical race theory (CRT) is a body of legal scholarship and an academic movement of civil-rights scholars and activists in the United States that seeks to critically examine American law as it intersects with issues of race and to challenge mainstream American liberal approaches to racial justice. CRT examines social, cultural, and legal issues primarily as they relate to race and racism in the United States.


“If it harms unit cohesion or esprit de corps in the military, then we’re literally risking our freedoms,” Cotton said. “That’s why it is so important that the military’s highest priority should remain what it always has been, to fight and win real wars, not to get distracted by culture wars.”

In June, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, General Mark Milley, defended the study of critical race theory in the US military during a House Armed Services Committee budget hearing. “I want to understand white rage – and I’m white,” Milley told the committee. He said he wanted to learn what caused thousands of people to storm the US Capitol during the January 6 insurrection, and “try to overturn the constitution of the United States of America.”

Milley defended the fact that critical race theory is included on a curriculum syllabus at West Point, saying, “I’ve read Mao Zedong. I’ve read Karl Marx. I’ve read Lenin. That doesn’t make me a communist. So what is wrong with understanding, having some situational understanding about the country for which we are here to defend?”

Cotton told an online forum of the Heritage Foundation last Thursday that officer nominations are typically handled by staff without deep reviews, except when there’s a “red flag” on the nomination. And the only nominees who are reviewed routinely are officers in line for their fourth star, or in line to receive a major command. Otherwise, there are typically no nomination hearings held, the senator said.

“But maybe it’s time to change that,” Cotton added. “Maybe it’s time that we start ensuring that our flag officers subscribe to those very basic principles that are outlined in our Declaration of Independence or Dr. Martin Luther King’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech.”

Apparently, Cotton’s office receives complaints from troops that the military’s “indoctrination training sessions” on critical race theory began in response to the death of George Floyd, and “it’s gotten worse over the last six months.”

General Milley told the House committee: “I personally find it offensive that we are accusing the United States military, our general officers, our noncommissioned officers of being, quote, woke, or something else, because we’re studying some theories that are out there.”

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin was also present at the same House Armed Services Committee budget hearing and had a tense exchange with Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla) about critical race theory.

Gaetz asked about Space Force officer, Lt. Col. Matthew Lohmeier, who was fired from his command last over his podcast that claimed Marxist ideologies are becoming prevalent in the military. “How should the Department of Defense think about critical race theory?” Gaetz asked Austin.

“We do not teach critical race theory, we don’t embrace critical race theory,” Austin said. “And I think that’s a spurious conversation.”

Sen. Cotton and Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas) set up a website inviting service members to anonymously report examples of “woke ideology” in the military.


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